On Saturday The Guardian newspaper printed a superb piece by James Ellroy on crime writer and sometime Pinkerton detective Dashiell Hammett, who is generally considered the first to have taken the ‘hard-boiled’ detective story into the territory of ‘literature’. Ellroy himself operates in these waters and his article is both insightful and admiring, calling Hammett ‘the great poet of the great American collision’:
Hammett’s vision is more complex than that of his near-contemporary Raymond Chandler. Chandler wrote the man he wanted to be – gallant and with a lively satirist’s wit. Hammett wrote the man he feared he might be – tenuous and sceptical in all human dealings, corruptible and addicted to violent intrigue. He stayed on the job. The job defined him. His job description was in some part "Oppression". That made him in large part a fascist tool. He knew it. He later embraced Marxist thought as a rightwing toady and used leftist dialectic for ironic definition. Detective work both fuelled and countermanded his chaotic moral state and gave him something consistently engaging to do.
Here’s the link to the article again.